Review: Librarian Tales

Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of librarian William Ottens’s experience working behind service desks and in the stacks of public libraries, most recently at the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas. In Librarian Tales, published in cooperation with the American Library Association, readers will learn about strange things librarians have found in book drops, weird and obscure reference questions, the stress of tax season, phrases your local librarians never want to hear, stories unique to children’s librarians, and more.

Ottens uncovers common pet peeves among his colleagues, addresses misguided assumptions and stereotypes, and shares several hilarious stories along the way. This book is must reading for any librarian, or anyone who loves books and libraries, though non-library folks will also laugh and cry (from laughing) while reading this lighthearted analysis of your local community pillar, the library.

Librarian Tales is one librarian’s account of his journey through the library career field over the past ten years. As a librarian myself, I knew I had to read this one. In fact, we even ordered it for our library because patrons need to see our side of things, right?

Ottens gives us the details of his journey from how he decided he wanted to work in the library to getting his degree to where he is now. He’s held a number of positions in the library field, including a three year stint as a director (my second most dreaded position). It was interesting to read about another librarian’s journey through all this, and to get his perspective especially on the director job.

He also includes some funny tales that are all too relatable. Some are dead on, as I’ve dealt with some of the exact same problems/situations in my own career. After all, you have to love it when the public assumes we just get paid to sit and read all day (*insert dramatic eye-roll here*). Or when patrons pull the “I pay taxes which pay your salary” bit. Oh, if they only knew! That sentence is even funnier when you’re working in a privately funded library that is open to the public (aka: an association library).

In any case, this was a read that I think most in the library field would enjoy, though there is something lacking to it. I’m not 100% sure what it is, but that’s why I’m only giving this book three stars as opposed to four or five. It starts off strong, but kind of drags later on. Still, it’s worth checking out at least, and if you’re a lover of libraries and your librarians, you might find it even more interesting than I did.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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